"Hand made" Definitions, hype and questions to think about

“Hand made” has a few definitions.
They all tend to end up kinda like this: “made by hand or by a hand process”

A few years ago, I replied to a guy who commented on a Warwick CNC process video that his Le Fay was superior because it was “carved completely by hand”. So I linked him the video posted six years earlier by the Le Fay factory that showed their bodies all being cut out by CNC machine. Oddly enough, I went back a while later and he’d deleted his comment. How about that?

So, when something is advertised as “hand made” are you expecting that the entire thing is completely made by hand?
Do you have a bass that’s claimed to be hand made?

If your grandmother knitted you a sweater, using two knitting needles and nothing else, you’d DEFINATELY consider that hand made.

But what if Nanna knitted the sleeves and then did the rest on a knitting machine for the front and back? Is that still hand made now that a machine kept everything perfect?
But the sleeves are still made with needles…
Can it be called hand made, or is this now dishonest? If Nanna pushed the knitting machine lever back and forth, it’s kinda still hand made, but if it was electric and she just pushed the button… Should we be consulting the advertising standards organisation in Nanna’s home state?

It’s not really hand made any more, is it? She could have been out of the room watching Jerry Springer.

So what if your bass body was CNC machined out of some laminated wood and then someone held a powered sander to it for a bit after they took it off the machine?
You can see that in bass production on youtube. The company even says that their basses are hand made.
I mean, maybe someone programmed that CNC machine by typing in some values at some point. And they undid the clamps that held it down by hand, and put it on the machine by hand. Probably even took them off by hand too.

But if we take a step back and they used a router table and routed around a stencil of the body to shape it while holding it by hand… is that still hand made?
They were holding it. But the stencil and the router bit did all the machining work.
Can you claim to be a master bass builder if you held a ball bearing roller to accurately follow a shape that became a bass?

The biggest problem with “hand made” is that there are no strict legal opinions about what it means, but many many people claim that their basses are made by hand.
Yet clearly CNC machines are cutting out the majority of parts like the body and neck.

Where do you draw the line?

If something is truly hand made, a company will be producing time lapse videos of their master craftsmen, whittling down a chunk of wood into a gorgeous bass, using nothing but hand tools and craftsmanship.

Doing that is seriously simple. It would just take a crapload longer.
Why is nobody doing this? I’ve seen guys with spokeshaves making wagon spokes before. Surely they’re the base skills for making a neck?

Why are there no manufacturers showing exactly how their “hand made” basses are made on youtube? Then you’d be able to appreciate the time, care and effort that goes into making them.

In fact, why aren’t there ANY instrument manufacturers showing a totally two knitting needle equivalent level of instrument manufacturing process on youtube?

You can think of any reason at all why this isn’t happening. They’re too busy. They don’t need to. There’s only one guy there.
Well, there’s a youtube channel called Primitive Technology. He’s just one guy, John Plant, building every single thing by hand. The only powered thing you’ll see him make is a water powered hammer.
Every single thing he uses (other than his shorts) is made by his hands.
I put to you that he demonstrates what “hand made” actually is.
You can reasonably safely assume that any company producing instruments in a factory that uses electricity , kinda isn’t following a pure “hand made” philosophy.
I have basses from the USA, Canada, Korea, Indonesia, Mexico, Germany and China in my collection. Two are promoted as hand made. Yet, if you watch carefully every factory tour of each available on youtube, there are some procedures that you always see… and processes that you NEVER see. Steps are missing for some reason.
Hand made, huh?

CNC made basses are the way to go if you want cost effective precision instruments. I guess inferring that they’re hand made somehow makes traditionalists feel better.

I invite your opinions of what you personally will accept as being “hand made”.


Yes, my Fender P Bass was crafted by Mexican artisans.

They didn’t make the sweet rug by hand though that was made in a factory somewhere.


I look at it this way: if it’s an acoustic instrument, artisanship, materials and such have a noted effect on the sound. When it comes to solid body electric instruments, the influence of the woods and materials and such is negligible BUT the attention to detail in the electronics and installation thereof (as well as the accuracy in the overall assembly) is where the biggest difference is.

So, in my opinion, for acoustics hand made is the way to go but for electrics, after a certain price point it’s more about bragging rights than noticeable audio quality difference.

Also, many mistake placebo effect for actual difference.

And I think that’s where big problem comes in. If you paid $15,000+ for a guitar, you don’t want to admit that it doesn’t sound much different from your $1,200 guitar. Your brain (and pride) will often times fill in something that really isn’t there. If you have to break out high end audio waveform spectrum analyzers to show me “see? SEE? there is a difference in the 41.3876534872Hz to 41.74753698787987Hz range” then, yeah, there isn’t a difference that you can actually hear. And since the feel itself is 100% subjective, that’s not a good metric either.

Now, do I look down on someone who paid $30 grand for a 100% custom Scheißewallazingdong guitar crafted from wood salvaged from the staircase of the Titanic? Nah, it’s your money. Just the same as I won’t look down on someone who has a brand new Glarry. It’s about what makes you happy. I just get annoyed when people start throwing out marketing terms as though it’s 100% undisputed fact.


Hand made is a meaningless marketing phrase.


as simple as that :point_up_2:


Buy the bass that inspires you to play. Anything else is meaningless.


Spoiler alert - so is ‘natural/all natural’ and organic (I say organic because there are many levels of organic and no one tells you which they are).

Most if not all descriptors that don’t simply describe a physical thing (blue, ash, chrome, etc) are marketeer mumbo jumbo that people like to talk about.


Petrochemicals are par excellence organic… so is road tar.

Anyhow, it’s all just marketing wank and buzzwords to further stimulate dopamine-jonesing monkey brains.




Hard to get more organic than gasoline! Well, I guess methane would be the simplest. It’s a miracle gas, it’s both cow farts and the simplest structure you can crack off of petroleum.

But I have to admit that organic on the food label will sway me just for the chance that there were never organophosphates sprayed on it. Those are all nasty, even the “safe” ones.

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While the term organic is not defined to the nth degree, farmers most commonly use it to mean food “grown without the use of pesticides.”

Whether a consumer buys that or a handmade guitar is a personal matter.

Personally, I’ve bought both. And will continue to do so. My money, my choice.

In Canada @MikeC it’s regulated (as best they can) as far as elsewhere goes, I don’t know.


That’s very cool.

This is from the USDA:

USDA certified organic foods are grown and processed according to federal guidelines addressing, among many factors, soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and use of additives. Organic producers rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible.

Produce can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. In instances when a grower has to use a synthetic substance to achieve a specific purpose, the substance must first be approved according to criteria that examine its effects on human health and the environment

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I own 2 Bob Kramer 10 inch chef knives, the classic line. One was a gift, well not exactly I bought it for a penny simply because it’s a bad omen to receive knives, and the other one I bought. The one I bought I paid about $500 it’s a licensed to Zwilling, the one I paid a penny cost $500 per inch, and this was before Bob’s claimed to fame on the TV shows like Top Chef and a Forged in Fire.

It’s a hand made with a hammering machine, with beautiful Damascus patterns. He did make a few by hand old fashion medieval style and some speculated that it would have cost around $2000-$4000. Per inch! Now he doesn’t sell knives anymore his knives are now only through auction.

Sure you can commission Bob for a hand made knife, but get things in order and refinance your home. His latest creation the Queen Bee is up on his website for $65000.

I own 3 custom basses. 2 are from Lignum their YouTube video are showing lots of CNC work but that’s just the tip of what’s going on. Each bass has over 200 hours of hands on labor. They make almost every components that are on the bass from body to neck, bone nuts, truss rod and retainers. You can check them out below.

Another one is the BassBuzz bass done by Dan Thompson of Guns’N’Guitars, the body was a mix of hand cut with a bandsaw and some were CNC, neck were ordered from China but the rest of the body work was done by hand power tool. All were well made and all were one offs.

I also have a Master built Warwick $$. It’s a CNC made but the “Master” do the rest of the work. If you order one now it would probably cost about $10,000 and 6-12 months wait, can it be ordered in full medieval style? I’m sure you can request that and at the price of a Tesla they’d probably do one for you and make a video about it too.

I have a couple of basses that I refinish and retextured I spent a whole lot longer than the Master Luthier spent on the bass, mainly due to lack of knowledge, experience and pretty much everything else, lol. I would not sell these basses because even based on a minimum wage the time and resources spent on them would cost more than the USA version. Sure @Barney and @mgoldst can probably do 4X better job and take 10X less but what’s their starting hourly rate given their experience.


That’s kind @Al1885 but the level of craftsmanship I see in basses made by Mayones, Fodera, Moon etc are light years ahead of where I am. But I certainly appreciate the beauty of their work.

Now somebody lend me $5600 (it’s on sale!)


Do they take Crypto @Barney , lol.


I have Canadian Tire money.


I have a Roks Nardis that is hand-made

I highly appreciate the craftsmanship and the time and effort that went into making it, but I also don’t assign any mythical qualities to it beyond that!

Still, I also appreciate that I don’t cut my fingers on the frets and that it is a beautiful one-of-a-kind instrument :smile:


I hear you, @Al1885.

I own four handmade acoustic steel string guitars. No CNC work done on them. Bandsaw for rough cuts, a palm sander, and the rest hand tools.

I know, because I visited the solo luthiers’ shops where three of the four were built and I saw their setups and processes. The fourth one was built by a young luthier who took forever to build my Redwood/Koa 000 guitar, becsuse he was too poor to afford sending anything out for CNC or PLEK jobs.

The point is: who cares? The simple answer is: I do. And so do the luthiers.

Time is the only currency in our lives that has any true worth. And I appreciate the time, expertise and the splinters that go into the hands and the build of an artisanal instrument, whether it comes from a single luthier or a boutique custom shop. YMMV.


Just an FYI for anyone interested: the degree of handmade work that goes into a Mayones.